The First Airplane Diesel Engine: Packard Model DR-980 of 1928
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The First Airplane Diesel Engine: Packard Model DR-980 of 1928


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Title: The First Airplane Diesel Engine: Packard Model DR-980 of 1928
Author: Robert B. Meyer
Release Date: January 20, 2010 [EBook #31023]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Chris Curnow, Joseph Cooper, Stephanie Eason, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
Frontispiece—President Herbert Hoover (in front of microphones) presenting the Collier Trophy to Alvan Macauley (nearest engine), President of the Packard Motor Car Co., on March 31, 1932 (although the award was for 1931). Also present were Hiram Bingham, U.S. Senator from Connecticut (nearest pillar), Clarence M. Young, Director of Aeronautics, U.S. Department of Commerce (between Macauley and Hoover), and Amelia Earhart, first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean (between Macauley and the engine). In the foreground is a cutaway Packard diesel aeronautical engine and directly in front of Senator Bingham is the Collier Trophy, America’s highest aviation award. (Smithsonian photo A48825.)
    The First Airplane Diesel Engine: Packard Model DR-980 of 1928
ROBERTB. MEYER Curator of Flight Propulsion
The following microfilm prints are available at the Smithsonian Institution: “The Packard Diesel Aircraft Engine—A New Chapter in Transportation Progress.” An advertising brochure produced by the Packard Motor Car Company in 1930, illustrated, 17 pages. Fifty-Hour Test of the Engine by the Packard Company, 1930. Text and charts, 14 pages. Fifty-Hour Test of the Engine by the U.S. Navy in 1931: Text and charts, 26 pages. Packard Instructional Manual, 1931. Illustrated, 74 pages. “The Packard Diesel Engine,” Aviation Institute of U.S.A. Pamphlet No. 21-A, 1930. Illustrated, 32 pages.
 For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C., 20402—Price 60 cents    
Contents   Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS vi FOREWORD vii INTRODUCTION 1 History2 DESCRIPTION 11 Specifications 11 Operating Cycles13 Weight-Saving Features15 Diesel Cycle Features20 Development 23 COMMENTS 27 ANALYSIS 33 Advantages33 Disadvantages 35 APPENDIX 1. Agreement Between Hermann I. A. Dorner and Packard Motor Car Company43 S2. Packard to Begin Building Diesel Plane Engines 46 oon 3. Effect of Oxygen Boosting on Power and Weight47
Acknowledgments It is difficult to acknowledge fully the assistance given by persons and museums for the preparation of this book. However, I wish especially to thank Hugo T. Byttebier, engine historian, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dipl. Ing. Hermann I. A. Dorner, diesel designer, Hanover, Germany; Harold E. Morehouse, and C. H. Wiegman, Lycoming Engines, Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Barry Tully, Goodyear Aircraft, Akron, Ohio; Richard S. Allen, aviation author, Round Lake, New York; William H. Cramer, brother of Parker D. Cramer, Wantagh, New York; Erik Hildes-Heim, Early Bird and aviation historian, Fairfield, Connecticut.
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I am particularly grateful to curators of the following museums who have been so generous in their assistance: Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany (Dipl. Ing. W. Jackle); Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan (Leslie, R. Henry); U.S. Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio (Maj. Robert L. Bryant, Jr., director); Science Museum, London, England (Lt. Comdr. (E) W. J. Tuck, Royal Navy). The preparation of this paper could not have been accomplished without the aid of the National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and the help of Philip S. Hopkins, director, and Paul E. Garber, head curator and historian.    Foreword In this second number of theSmithsonian Annals of Flight, Robert B. Meyer Jr., curator and head of the flight propulsion division, tells the story of the first oil-burning engine to power an airplane, the Packard diesel engine of 1928, now in the collections of the National Air Museum. The author’s narrative, well illustrated with drawings and photographs, provides a historical background for the development of the engine, and a technical description that includes specifications and details of performance. It also contains comments from men and women who flew planes powered by the Packard diesel. The author concludes with an analysis of the engine’s advantages and disadvantages. PHILIPS. HOPKINS Director, National Air Museum 30 July 1964    Introduction On display in the National Air Museum, Smithsonian Institution, is the first oil-burning engine to power an airplane. Its label reads: “Packard Diesel Engine—1928—This first compression-ignition engine to power an airplane developed 225 hp at 1950 revolutions per minute. It was designed under the direction of L. M. Woolson. In 1931, a production example of this engine powered a Bellanca airplane to an 84 hour and 33 minute nonrefueled duration record which has never been equalled. —Weight/power ratio: 2.26 lb per hp—Gift of Packard Motor Car Co.  
Figure 1 (left).—Front view of first Packard diesel, 1928. Note hoop holding cylinders in place and absence of venturi throttles. This engine was equipped with an air pressure starting system. (Smithsonian photo A2388.) Figure 2 (right).—Left side view of first Packard diesel, 1928. Heywood starter (air) fitting shown on the head of the next to lowest cylinder. (Smithsonian photo A2388C.)  This revolutionary engine was created in the short time of one year. Within two years of its introduction in 1928, airplane diesel engines were being tested in England by Rolls-Royce, in France by Panhard, in Germany by Junkers, in Ital b Fiat, and in the United States b Guiberson. Packard
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had demonstrated to the world the remarkable economy and safety of the airplane diesel engine, and the response was immediate and favorable. The novelty and performance of the Packard diesel assured it a large and attentive audience wherever it was exhibited. Yet in spite of its performance record the engine was doomed to failure by reason of its design, and it was further handicapped by having been rushed into production before it could be thoroughly tested.  History The official beginning of the Packard diesel engine can be traced to a license agreement dated August 18, 1927, between Alvan Macauley, president of the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and Dipl. Ing. Hermann I. A. Dorner, a diesel engine inventor of Hanover, Germany.[1] Before the agreement was drawn up, Capt. Lionel M. Woolson, chief aeronautical engineer for Packard, tested an air-cooled and a water-cooled diesel that Dorner had designed and built in Germany.[2] Both engines attained the then high revolutions per minute of 2000 and proved efficient and durable. They demonstrated the practicability of Dorner’s patented “solid” type of fuel injection which formed the basis of the Packard diesel’s design.[3]from Dorner’s engines, Woolson and Dorner elements  Using designed the Packard diesel with the help of Packard engineers and Dorner’s assistant, Adolph Widmann. Woolson was responsible for the weight-saving features, and Dorner for the combustion system. The historic first flight took place on September 19, 1928, at the Packard proving grounds in Utica, Michigan, just a year and a month from the day Dorner agreed to join the Packard team. Woolson and Walter E. Lees, Packard’s chief test pilot, used a Stinson SM-1DX “Detroiter.” The flight was so successful, and later tests were so encouraging, that Packard built a $650,000 plant during the first half of 1929 solely for the production of its diesel engine. The factory was designed to employ more than 600 men, and 500 engines a month were to have been manufactured by July 1929.[4]  
Figure 3.—Alvan Macauley (left), President of the Packard Motor Car Co. and Col. Charles A. Lindbergh with the original Packard diesel-powered Stinson “Detroiter” in the background, 1929. (Smithsonian photo A48319D.)  The engine’s first cross-country flight was accomplished on May 13, 1929, when Lees flew the Stinson SM-1DX “Detroiter” from Detroit, Michigan, to Norfolk, Virginia, carrying Woolson to the annual field day of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at Langley Field. The 700-mile trip was flown in 6½ hours, and the cost of the fuel consumed was $4.68. Had the airplane been powered with a comparable gasoline engine, the fuel cost would have been about 5 times as great.[5] On March 9, 1930, using the same airplane and engine, Lees and Woolson flew from Detroit, Michigan, to Miami, Florida, a distance of 1100 miles in 10 hours and 15 minutes with a fuel cost of $8.50. The production engine, slightly refined from the original, received the first approved type certificate issued for any diesel aircraft engine on March 6, 1930. The Department of Commerce granted certificate no. 43 after the Packard Company had ground- and flight-tested this type of engine for approximately 338,000 hp hr, or about 1500 hr of operation.[6]  
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Figure 4.Dipl. Ing1. 9H3e0.rmann I. A. Dorner,Figure 5.Capt. Lionel M. Woolson, 1931. Chief Aeronautical Engineer, Packard Motor German diesel engine designer, was Car Co. for the Packarrde sDpRo-n9s8i0bl aeircraft engine.Designer of Packard DR-980 diesel engine. (Smithsonian photo A48645.) (Smithsonian photo A48645A.)  One of the early production versions powered a Bellanca “Pacemaker” which was piloted by Lees and his assistant Frederic A. Brossy to a world’s nonrefueling heavier-than-air duration record. The flight lasted for 84 hours, 33 minutes from May 25 through 28, 1931, over Jacksonville, Florida. This event was so important that it was the basis of the following editorial, published in the July 1931 issue ofAnioatvi,[7]which summarizes so well the progress made by the diesel engine over a 3-year period and the hope held for its future: A RECORD CROSSES THE ATLANTIC—The Diesel engine took its first step toward acceptance as a powerplant for heavier-than-air craft when, in the summer of 1928, a diesel-powered machine first flew. The second step was made at the 1930 Detroit show, when the engine went on commercial sale. The third was accomplished last month, when a plane with a compression-ignition engine using furnace oil as a fuel circled over the beaches around Jacksonville for 84 hours and inscribed its performance upon the books as a world’s record —the longest flight ever made without intermediate refueling. With the passing of the refueling-duration excitement, and with the apparent decision to allow that record to stand permanently at its present level, trials for straight time in the air without replenishment of supplies begin to regain a proper degree of appreciation. No other record, unless it be some of those for speed with substantial dead loads, is of such importance as the non-stop distance and duration marks. No other has such bearing upon precisely those qualities of aerodynamic efficiency, fuel economy, and reliability of airplane and powerplant that most affect commercial usefulness. It is more than three years since the duration record left American shores, and it has been more than doubled in that time. Its return is very welcome. It is doubly welcome for being made with a fundamentally new type of engine. The diesel principle is not a commercial monopoly. It is open to anyone. Already two different designs in America, and one or two in Europe, have been in the air. For certain purposes, at least, it seems reasonable to expect that its special advantages will bring it into widespread use. Every practical demonstration of the progress of the diesel toward realizing its theoretical possibilities in the air as it has realized them on the land and at sea is a bit of progress toward better and more economical commercial flying, and so benefits the whole industry. The fourth, and next, main element in the demonstration will be provided when diesels go into regular service on some well-known transport line as standard equipment, and the accumulation of data on performance under normal service conditions begins. We believe that that will happen before the end of 1932. Many men, from Dr. Rudolf Diesel to Walter Lees and Frederic Brossy, have had direct or indirect hands in the making of this record. The greatest of all contributions was that of Lionel M. Woolson, who created the engine and flew with it in every test and brought it through its early troubles to the point of readiness for the commercial market. The flight that lasted four days and three nights is his memorial, quite as much as is the bronze
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plaque unveiled last April in the Detroit show hangar.  
Figure 6. —Stinson SM-1DX “Detroiter.” This airplane, powered with original Packard DR-980 diesel engine, made  the world’s first diesel-powered flight on September 19, 1928. (Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan.) Figure 7. —Packard-Bellanca “Pacemaker.” This airplane, powered by a Packard DR-980 diesel, holds the world’s record for nonrefueling, heavier-than-air aircraft duration flight. The flight lasted 84 hours, 33 minutes, 1¼ seconds, and was completed on May 28, 1931, Jacksonville, Florida. (Smithsonian photo A48446B.) Figure 8. —Verville “Air Coach,” October 1930. (Smithsonian photo A48844.) Figure 9. —Packard-Bellanca “Pacemaker” owned by Transamerican Airlines Corporation and used by Parker D. Cramer, pilot, and Oliver L. Paquette, radio operator, in their flight from Detroit, Michigan, to Lerwick, Shetland Islands, summer 1931. (Smithsonian photo A200.) Figure 10. —Ford 11-AT-1  
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Trimotor, 1930, with 3 Packard 225-hp DR-980 diesel engines.  Note special bracing for the outboard nacelles. (Smithsonian photo A48311B.) Figure 11. —Towle TA-3 Flying Boat, 1930, with 2  Packard 225-hp DR-980 diesel engines. (Smithsonian photo A48319.) Figure 12. —Stewart M-2 Monoplane, 1930, with 2 Packard 225- hp DR-980 diesel engines. (Smithsonian photo A48319C.) Figure 13. Consolidated XPT-8A, 1930. This is a Consolidated PT-3A  p ed by a ower DR-980 Packard diesel. (Smithsonian photo A48319E.)
 The Robert J. Collier Trophy, America’s highest aviation award, was won by the Packard Motor Car Company in 1931 for its development of the diesel engine. The formal presentation was made at the White House, March 31, 1932, by President Hoover on behalf of the National Aeronautic Association. Alvan Macauley, president of the Packard Motor Car Company, accepted the trophy, saying: “We do not claim, Mr. President, that we have reached the final development even though our diesel aircraft engine is an accomplished fact and we have the pioneer’s joy of knowing that we have successfully accomplished what had not been done before.... [8] Thesuccess of the Packard diesel is illustrated by the amazing early following chronological summary: 1927—License agreement signed between Alvan Macauley and Hermann I. A. Dorner to permit designing of the engine. 1928—First flight of a diesel-powered airplane accomplished. 1929—First cross-country flights accomplished. 1930—Packard diesels were sold on the commercial market and were used to power airplanes manufactured by a dozen different American companies. 1931—World’s official duration record for nonrefueled heavier-than-air flight. First flight across the Atlantic by a diesel-powered airplane. 1932—Packard diesels tested successfully in the Goodyear nonrigid airshipDefender.[9] American altitude Official record for diesel-powered airplanes established (this record still stands). In spite of this promising record, the project died in 1933. The December 1950 issue ofPegasusgave two reasons for the failure of the engine: “One blow had already been dealt the program through the accidental death of Capt. L. M. Woolson, Packard’s chief engineer in charge of the Diesel development, on April 23, 1930. Then the Big Depression took its toll in research work everywhere and Packard was not excepted.”  
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Figure 14.—Walter E. Lees, Packard chief test pilot (in cabin) and Frederic A. Brossy, Packard test pilot, before taking off on their world’s record, nonrefueling, heavier-than-air aircraft duration flight, which lasted 84 hours, 33 minutes, and 1¼ seconds. (Smithsonian photo A48446E.)
Figure 15.—Walter E. Lees, official timer, and Ray Collins, manager, 1930 National Air Tour, with their official airplane, a Packard diesel Waco “Taper Wing,” at Packard proving grounds near Detroit. (Smithsonian photo A49449.)
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Figure 16.—Capt. Karl Fickes, acting head of Goodyear’s airship operations, pointing out features on one of the “Defender’s” Packard diesel engines to Roland J. Blair, Goodyear airship pilot, Akron, Ohio. From “Aero Digest,” February 1932. (Smithsonian photo A49674.)
 The engine did not fail for the above mentioned reasons. Capt. Woolson’s death was indeed unfortunate, but there were others connected with the project who carried on his work for three years after he passed away. The big depression was also unfortunate, but it did not stop aeronautical engine development. “It was a time when such an engine would have been most welcome if it had been produced in large enough numbers to bring the price down to compare favorably pricewise with gas engines of the same horsepower class.”[10]The Packard diesel failed because it was not a good engine. It was an ingenious engine, and two of the several features it pioneered (the use of magnesium and of a dynamically balanced crankshaft) survive in modern reciprocating engine designs. In addition, when it was first introduced, no other engine could match it for economical fuel consumption and fuel safety. It also had other less important advantages, but its disadvantages outweighed all these advantages, as will be seen.     Specifications The following specifications are for the production engine and its prototypes, known as the model DR-980:[11] Type 4-stroke cycle diesel Cylinders 9—static radial configuration Cooling Air Fuel injection Directly into cylinders at a pressure of 6000 psi Valves Poppet type, one per cylinder Ignition Compression—glow plugs for starting—air compression 500 psi at 1000° F. Fuel Distillate or “furnace oil” Horsepower 225 at 1950 rpm Bore and stroke 41316in. × 6 in. Compression 16:1—maximum combustion pressure 1500 ratio psi Displacement 982 cu in. Weight 510 lb without propeller hub Weight-horsepower 2.26 lb hp ratio
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manufact d U.S.A. ure cFouneslumption .46 lb per hp/hr at full power Fuel consumption .40 lb per hp/hr at cruising Oiltion04 lb per hp/hr  . consump Outside1 diameter 45116in. Overall length 36¾ in. OptionalSStpaertceiral sEecriliepss ne oe. l7ectric inertia; 6 volts.  accessories Gene t r—Eclipse type G-1; 6 volts ra o  
Figure 17.—Longitudinal cross section, Packard diesel engine DR-980. (Smithsonian photo A48845.)  Figure 19.—Right side view of engine, showing accessories; Packard Motor Car Co. 50-hour test, 1930. A, starter; B, oil filter. (Smithsonian photo A48323.)
Figure 18.—Transverse cross section, Packard diesel engine DR-980. (Smithsonian photo A48847.) Figure 20.—Rear left view of engine, showing accessories, U.S. Navy 50-hour test, 1931. Barrel valve type venturi throttles. A, starter; B, oil filter; C, fuel circulating pump; D, generator. (Smithsonian photo A48324C.)
 Operating Cycles The sequences of operation of a Packard diesel engine compared with those of a 4-stroke cycle gasoline engine are illustrated in figure 21. Brief Analysis of Action in a Four-Cycle Gasoline Engine
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